1st June 2017

Volunteering at Simon on the Streets

Alastair Bowie, one of Simon on the Streets longest serving volunteers, shares his experience of volunteering.

How long have you been volunteering for Simon on the Streets?
I started in December 2006. 


How did you find out about the volunteer opportunities at Simon on the Streets?

I attended a talk on the Leeds Simon Community (Simon on the Streets old name) at the Methodist Church in Boston Spa where I live.

Why did you get involved?

I was inspired by the “The Well Analogy” used to explain how Simon on the Streets work.

A “Well” is a dark, dingy, damp and cold place. This was used to illustrate the lives of many rough sleepers users who are often isolated and in dark dangerous and miserable cold places.

There are many organisations who want to help and these are illustrated as people looking into the well and shouting down to those at the bottom with the offer of help.

Some people would respond.

Other organisations might drop a rope or a ladder into the well and ask that they climb up/hold on.

Some people would respond.

Unfortunately, some are left at the bottom as they lack the motivation and self esteem to want to climb up or hold on.

Simon on the Streets approach is to go down into the well, starting from the same level. Here they can start to provide some of the motivation and self belief to start to help the individual climb out, safe in the knowledge that if they fall back when starting to climb Simon on the Streets are there to catch them and help rebuild that desire to climb out.  

 What kind of things have you done and how was the volunteering experience?

I have had a rewarding time helping out on the soup run on a Tuesday. Over the years I have attended a number of training courses to help develop my knowledge and skills.

I have run a number of fundraising events to raise awareness and money where I live and work and made many new friends.

I very quickly understood that the Soup run was not about Soup.  It is about relationships and the consistency of someone from Simon on the Streets being there every Tuesday night. Sometimes it is just a chat and a laugh. Other times it is by being there you can help get a vulnerable young person off the streets and into a secure place.

I have had mixed feelings during my volunteering, some happy times when we can see service users progress and some very sad times when they don't and die.

When the latter happens I often question if I/we did enough and sometimes I just need to accept that making their life a bit more comfortable along the way was a help in some way.

The Starfish story illustrates that even in a small way you can make a difference.

While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.

He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young man, do you not realise that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”


Other Blog Posts

17th December 2018

Aaron's success

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Emotional Support, Bradford, Practical Support, Service User Stories

27th November 2018

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Have you ever used Street Link? Read below to find out more about it and why it's important from our Huddersfield Outreach Worker: